Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Success of Thanksgiving Live! Driven by Use of Social Media

This year, the Food Network decided to host a special show, Thanksgiving Live!, to celebrate the holiday feast. The two-hour premier was hosted by the renowned Alton Brown on November 20th from 12 PM to 2 PM, and it featured many of the popular Food Network personalities including Ted Allen, Sunny Anderson, Anne Burrell, Melissa d’Arabian, Bobby Flay, Alex Guarnaschelli and Rachael Ray. The idea behind the show was that it would facilitate a question and answer session to prepare viewers for the holiday cooking; viewers would ask questions and the Food Network stars would answer. Most interesting, however, was how the show depended upon forms of social media to solicit questions from its viewers.

Thanksgiving Live! relied primarily on FoodNetwork.com to advertise and seek out questions for the show. A blog post on the homepage read, “From solutions to dry turkey and lumpy gravy to Food Network stars demonstrating helpful tips and delicious recipes, experts will be on hand to address perennial problems.” But that was not all. The show also took advantage of YouTube and posted an informative promotion video (click the link below).


Finally, the show’s producers used their FoodNetwork.com blog post to explain the process of how to ask a question to be answered on Thanksgiving Live! It specified that people could use a variety of social media applications. They could comment with their questions on the advertising blog post, Facebook, Twitter or email specified contact information to thanksgivinglive@foodnetwork.com so that Thanksgiving Live! producers could contact them to set up a Skype video conference or phone call. Ultimately, social media drove the show.

Shown below is a link to the blog for Thanksgiving Live!


The fact that there are 3,103 posts to the blog confirms the success of the show’s marketing and solicitation of questions through an online forum. After watching the show myself, I can validate that the Skype broadcasts, Facebook posts, Twitter tweets and phone calls were all equally successful.

This Thanksgiving Live! phenomenon hints at the future of social media’s limitless capabilities and applications.

Monday, November 28, 2011

In case you missed the AMAs ...

In the spirit of the tracks that makes up our iTunes, here is a recap of tonight's American Music Awards:

Winner: Nicki Minaj! She rocked the opening set with David Guetta, and her outfit certainly did not disappoint (who says you can’t have speakers covering your more prominent body parts?). After her high-voltage performance, she slowed the pace down during her walk to the stage after being awarded her first AMA. Maybe she should have avoided high heels that are lofted higher than the beds in our freshman dorms. Hope she didn’t sprain those ankles too many times! We also learned that her mother now has a publicist and will be releasing a gospel album (talking about her haterzz?) in the near future. Go Mrs. Minaj, what a champ!

Loser: Justin Beiber! Nobody told J-Beibs that it’s a bit weird to be singing Christmas carols in a spacesuit before Thanksgiving. He didn’t even get a nomination for Artist of the Year—you can bet that the producers of the show are going to be getting some serious hate mail from tweens out there.

Winner: Chris Brown. It’s a pretty sweet deal when you get a spot to perform on the show and aren’t even expected to sing. The time he spent lip syncing wasn’t even long enough to get on the list of #ThingsLongerThanKimKardashian’sMarriage. No worries though, the ensuing dancing more than made up for it.

Loser: Pittbull is the creepiest live performer I have ever seen. Talk about a face that should stick to radio …

Definitely a boyfriend you bring home to your family.

Winner: Jennifer Lopez. After her very public breakup everyone wanted to see how she would perform at the AMAs. I was a bit thrown off when she came out in a cape and started sniffling … is she going to cry on live TV!? But the joke was on us: she quickly threw off the cape to reveal a … well honestly I didn’t know where her outfit started or ended (but it really conveyed the rationale behind the $27 million insurance policy she took out on her butt--or is that just an urban legend?). Things got a bit strange when her spot turned into a Fiat advertisement (do you really expect us to believe that you feel like driving a Fiat all around the AMA stage?). But she quickly won the crowd back by losing a piece of clothing after each song. She also moves faster in her heels than Usain Bolt does in the 100 meter dash.

Loser: Is Hot Chelle Rae’s acceptance speech tattooed on his chest?

Better wear a v-neck in case the teleprompter fails!

Winner: Katy Perry. No one knew the song she was performing, and she still got a standing ovation! She also became the first female artist to have five number ones off a single album, not bad.

Winner: Does Bruno Mars actually look younger than Justin Beiber? Maybe, but it doesn’t matter because Bruno Mars won best pop male artist, which happened to be his first AMA.

Winner: Taylor Swift killed it—she won every award she was nominated for. By the end of the night, she had won her tenth AMA, including the award for Artist of the Year. When it was all said and done, the acceptance speech ‘oh my god!’ count was higher than the award count, but let’s be real, how can we hate on T-Swift?

Loser: Old Navy. The clothing brand tried to sponsor LMFAO’s headline act at the end of the show. They can try, but something tells me they won’t be making it onto the official Party People wardrobe line any time soon.

Winner: LMFAO! How can not love a group that busts out the sponge bob boxers in the middle of their performance? That being said, it was a bit weird to see David Hasselhoff join the party … in the same boxers.

Actor David Hasselhoff (C) performs with SkyBlu (L) and DJ Redfoo ...

Teens with Super Powers: A Review of Television Show "Misfits"

You may think Misfits is just another show about a group of troubled teens that have to deal with the hardships of teenage love, the law, and just about any other issue that kids these days experience. That is, until you find out that of the five main characters, one can turn invisible, one can read peoples’ minds, one can teleport through time, one can make any individual desire sex more than anything in the world, and one can…well, you’ll have to finish season 1 to find that power out.

Described as a science-fiction-comedy-drama, the 2010 BAFTA (British Academy Television Award, aka the British version of an Emmy) award winner for Best Drama Series involves five community service offenders who gain the aforementioned powers after being struck by an electrical storm. Soon after, a flurry of unlikely events unite the group of misfits – best friends are made, lovers finally unite, and people are murdered.


And when I say lovers unite and people are murdered, I mean a whole lot of sex and a whole lot of killings happen. I’m not sure if all British shows are like Misfits, but the material is definitely not suitable for children. The nature of the material also extends to the show’s humor; Misfits is a very entertaining, albeit crude show, which I’m afraid adults may not find very humorous.

From the perspective of a college student, however, I found the show entertaining enough for me to catch up to the show’s currently running third season in only a few weeks time. While some of the characters fit stereotypical archetypes, such as the inappropriate troublemaker Nathan or pretty promiscuous girl Alisha who wishes she wasn’t, I came to truly care about the lives of the five misfits throughout the series. I particularly enjoyed actor Robert Sheehan, who is hilarious as the highly inappropriate Nathan, as well as Iwan Rheon, whose character Simon undergoes the most radical transformation throughout the series.

While there’s a lot to like, there are definitely some areas that will turn people off. The show gets very sci-fi in the second season as time-travel gains a more prominent role, which leaves a very large plot hole near the end of the season that fans still have no explanation for. Furthermore, the show can get weird at times. And when I say weird, I mean a teenager inadvertently having sex with an 80 year old, a girl falling in love with a gorilla, and a kid with the power to control milk going on a killing rampage by controlling the dairy inside people. While these are slightly less weird as they sound in the context of the show, many people may be turned off by the sheer ludicrousness of some of the situations the misfits find themselves in.

Nevertheless, I can’t help but recommend Misfits. It’s a funny and creative show with endearing characters. While the sci-fi may get a bit out of hand at times, teens and college students will be able to relate to the main characters and will appreciate the scenarios they end up in…well, hopefully they won’t relate to the gorilla lover.

- Jordan Segall

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Season of the Assassin: The First Step in Vinnie Paz’s Emotional, Political, and Social Maturation

Sicilian-American rapper Vincenzo Luvineri (better known as Vinnie Paz) is often regarded as the angriest man in all of rap. Needless to say, Vinnie has earned this title quite understandably given his violent lyrics and heavily political themes throughout his 20+ year musical career. Starting off as a member of the Philly based underground hip hop duo Jedi Mind Tricks, Vinnie quickly gained a reputation as a musical outsider with his conspiracy theory-ridden album The Psycho-Social, Chemical, Biological, And Electro-Magnetic Manipulation of Human Consciousness. This reputation was only confirmed throughout the next decade of lyrical bravado, political frustrations, and personal lamentation that characterized his next six albums with Jedi Mind Tricks. Even a quick glance over the tracks from albums like A History of Violence and Legacy of Blood is enough to confirm these speculations, with lyrics like “I’m a warmonger I never explore passively” and “The bullets splatter through your spleen and guts” examples of some of the milder and less profane lyrics you are likely to come across in these works. These somewhat childish outbursts of violence and lyrical arrogance (“If it’s coming from my jaw then it’s pure anger”) may have very well been due to Vinnie’s own experiences with depression and suicidal thoughts, highlighted by his underground classic Razorblade Salvation, wherein he addresses a formal apology to his mother for writing a letter to her describing his planned suicide.

As seemingly immature as Vinnie’s lyricism was throughout much of his early work, his debut solo album Season of the Assassin represents a level of musical growth that had been formerly lacking. What’s miraculous is that the album is just as politically charged and audibly frustrated as even his earliest albums with Jedi Mind Tricks. The single End of Days begins samples a speech describing “the chasm between what we’re told is going on and what is really going on” to set the stage for a track that enumerates a long list of political and economic conspiracy theories. Similarly, the truly Vinnie-esque theme of lyrical violence is conserved in tracks like Bad Day, Nosebleed, and Washed in the Blood of the Lamb which are filled with explicit physical threats and lavish self-praise. But despite this continuity with older works, what sets apart Season of the Assassin is Vinnie’s ability to branch out to the subtleties of human emotion rather than the one-dimensional barrage of rage and confusion that was a hallmark of his early musical career. In Keep Movin’ On Vinnie pairs with a somber-sounding Shara Worden to deliver a true masterpiece that empathizes with the plight of factory workers and war veterans who have lost their jobs and are left with no support for their families. For once Vinnie chooses to put aside his penchant for controversial political conspiracies and address the empirical realities of the world from which he came. In a similar showcase of sensitivity, Vinnie delivers a heartwarming dedication to his step father in his rather uncharacteristic track, Same Story. Here, Vinnie expresses his utmost respect for his step father’s treatment of Vinnie’s mother and exhibits an unprecedented level of lyrical sorrow (“I was nervous, I was crying and really distraught”) at his step father’s poignant early death. Tracks like these are perhaps symbolic of a new, post-Jedi Mind Tricks Vinnie Paz who, through his rap, has risen to higher levels of lyrical maturity and has found greater control over the more nuanced elements of human emotion.

--Amin Aalipour

Black Thursday: The New Thanksgiving?

As Black Thursday joins the ranks of Black Friday and Cyber Monday this year, Thanksgiving Day more than ever seems like the mere onset of the largest shopping extravaganza of the year. Since early last week, TV stations, websites, magazines, and newspapers have headlined where to go and what to buy in search of the best deals on flatscreen TVs, iPads, refrigerators, boots, Hot Wheels, and Justin Bieber limited-edition holiday fragrance sets, to name a few (e.g. #BlackFriday, http://finance.yahoo.com/news/black-friday-2011--deals-from-walmart--target--best-buy-and-more.html).

The traditional day after Thanksgiving shopping bonanza has its roots in the 1924 NYC Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade; department stores in particular hosted parades to launch the start of the Christmas Shopping season. Then, in 1966, police in Philadelphia coined the term “Black Friday” to describe the heavy and disruptive pedestrian and vehicle traffic as crazed shoppers rushed to malls and shopping centers (a literal shop till you drop). An alternative explanation was later offered: “Black Friday” indicates the point at which retailers begin to turn a profit as they go from “in the red” to "in the black". For many years, it was common for retailers to open at 6:00 a.m., but in the late 2000s, many had crept to 5:00 or even 4:00 to offer door buster deals. In 2011, this full-contact sport, a cross between bullfighting and football (see video below), has been taken to a new extreme. Walmart, Target, Toys R Us, and Macy’s, among other retail giants have decided to start their holiday sales as early as 9 p.m. tonight. This weekend alone is excepted to bring in 
an estimated 134 million shoppers and $40 billion in sales.

According to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mN1UH5RxcjQ,
 starting last night, people have already pitched tents to wait for the hyper-consumerism to start. Call me crazy, but I much prefer to spend today being thankful and celebrating with my friends and family. Today and for the rest of the weekend, I am plan to #partylikethepilgrims, go into a #foodcoma, watch lots of football, and gorge on turkey and pumpkin pie. However you plan on celebrating today--whether shopping, pitching a tent, cooking, or eating to your heart's content--Happy Thanksgiving!

-Catherine Hsieh

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Taste of THE HUNGER GAMES: A Look at the Trailer & The Phenomenon

A young adult series suddenly reaching a massive audience and then getting turned into a blockbuster movie: sound familiar?

Meet: The Hunger Games.  In this series of three novels, Katniss Everdeen, a particularly unlikable protagonist, sets off to participate in an annual event called the Hunger Games.  The Hunger Games are a gruesome spectacle in which two children from each “district,” like a state, are forced to fight to the death until only one reminds.  In the end, Katniss finds that her opponents are not only the other 23 competitors, but the Empire itself.  The books themselves received widespread popularity, if not memorable critical acclaim.  And soon, these books will become movies – all starting with The Hunger Games, set to debut in theaters March, 2012.  The following is a trailer for the movie.

I’m beyond trying to compare a set of books to its Hollywood interpretation.  Although the desire to compare is tempting, the reality is this: the books and the movies have two overlapping but different audiences.  Die-hard fans will only read the books.  Casual fans and non-readers will only watch the movies. But young adult literature enthusiasts, dystopian fiction fans, and those like me – with a tendency to obsess over fictional worlds delivered in series (I have to admit my bias and say I read books sometimes only because they come in series) – will read the books, see the movies, participate in the online buzz surrounding the new release, know all the names of the actors for the characters, complain where the book deviates from the movies, complain that Katniss is portrayed as too pretty, re-read the books again, and then one more time to pass the time, download the soundtrack before it’s even released… what?  Oh, right, anyway.

The internet is a great place to snoop for details about the upcoming movie, and I’ve been doing just that.  I was disappointed in the casting, unsatisfied by the love triangle portrayal, unsure of how the violence would be depicted… in short, I was furious.  I even considered going to see the movie the night of the release instead of the midnight showing, which I consider to be the ultimate insult.  But then… then I saw the trailer.  And I saw Cinna (Lenny Kravitz) talking to Katniss, and Katniss’ smug attitude, and Peeta being all sweet and revolutionary at the same time… and suddenly, it all came together.  The movie will probably be terrible compared to the books.  But, hey.  It might be a good movie after all.